By April Sliwak
Can we just say… ahhhhh…. GOOD-BYE 2020.
I think we can all agree that 2020 was the most unusual year we’ve ever had, at least in my lifetime. It was a year of loss, disappointment, and anger. But I’d like to be honest and tell you that on top of all the events and emotions that took place in the world, some of us, including myself, were dealing with added pain of grieving someone close to you. This kind of suffering was new to me and something I’ve never experienced before. Grief is hard.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18
It was a year ago that my father passed away. By God’s grace, we just had a beautiful weekend together doing some of his favorite things; playing cards, eating good food, and telling stories. That evening God called him home. It was shocking and heartbreaking yet as a believer, I felt peaceful. In hindsight, I was so thankful the Lord gave us that last weekend together. Then on a turn of events, (a calendar page), the year 2020 was upon us with all of its uncertainties and loss.
My grief grew and it was all around me. It followed me like a shadow, it was enhanced with every new worldly news event and with the void of family and friends. I didn’t see my mom on Easter, which was hard because it was the first time without my father and without my mother. A family wedding was postponed, family traditions were broken like gathering for Thanksgiving and birthdays. My friends who are so important to me, still haven’t been together in our usual ways. Grief, loss, pain, anger, brokenheartedness, tears. Anybody? Then one day out of the blue in November, my daughter texted me:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
It still brings me to tears as I write this. That was it for me. I snapped out of it and remembered that everything we see through our broken eyes and flesh, is temporary. All of it. I’m passing through this season in history. It doesn’t make the grief less real, just less painful because my hope is in my citizenship in heaven; my permanent home, my everlasting home, without pain and suffering, with my dad, and with Jesus.
How about you? Believer, knowing that our time here is temporary how does this help you to have peace going forward in 2021?
If you want to become a follower of Christ, simply ask the Savior to come into your life, admitting you are a sinner, asking for forgiveness and do your best to turn from your sin. Jesus will live in your heart and you will be a citizen with Him in heaven forever.
I’d love to hear your comments on grief, loss and hope. God loves you.
By Susanne Ciancio
God solved a problem for me in a very roundabout way during the pandemic. My story in a nutshell is that I’ve found something that has truly brought about change at a transformational level for clients, friends and ultimately for myself! He hasn’t wasted one bit of this time of quarantine and He is always pursuing us with His Grace and Truth. Transformation is a big Bible principle and the subject of many Sunday morning sermons. The good news of the Gospel is that it’s not just for Sundays and Bible studies. God has come near and brought all of His benefits and resources for anyone and everyone.
In my search for strategies, exercises and meditations to support clients’ clinical work for stress and anxiety I happened upon something rather spectacular! A client with PTSD shared an app she uses to relax and de-stress. Of course, I had to check it out before I passed it on. It turned out to be the answer to something I’ve been praying about since 2018. But it exceeded what I had been seeking The Lord about. (More about my story later.)
The App my client told me about is called The One Minute Pause. It’s free, simple and easy which is spectacular in itself...but the best part is the cumulative effects. It keeps working even when you’re not working it! The app is based on a new book by John Eldredge called, “Get Your Life Back.” During the time of the pandemic so many are desiring to get their old lives back. Understandable! But this app is not about getting your old life back This is more like getting the life you always wanted.... which is the life God planned for you. There are inspirational excerpts from the book included in the app along with 4 “pauses” ranging from 1-10 minutes. There’s beautiful music and Eldredge himself instructing us to give everything and everyone to Jesus. His voice and the language are very calming and peaceful. They make one recommendation: set an alarm so that twice daily you receive an alert on your phone to remind you it’s time for The Pause.
The beauty of the app and why I’m distinguishing it from other similar apps is because of the aftereffects! As I intentionally engage with the right hemisphere of my brain during The Pause, I simultaneously disengage with my left brain effortlessly. The left brain is my enquiring mind that wants to know...information, facts, doctrine but it can also lead me down needless rabbit holes of fear, anxiety and worry. Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson says in his book, The Anatomy of the Soul, that we sense who God is in our right brains. The right hemisphere experiences life viscerally, creates images...senses things like who God is and how He feels about us. Our right brains are designed to then send messages over to the left brain to “make sense of what we sense.” *
When I begin to understand my hardwiring, I can tend to my soul like a wise and loving gardener tends to his garden. As I choose what I’ll focus on (and in turn what not to focus on) changes are made on the cellular level. Structural changes are made in our very DNA as we release pressures and anxieties to the Lord. **
Why does this app work so well? What’s the secret? Could it be that the discipline and direction the app provides causes us to slow down and when we slow down, we find ourselves on Gods’ frequency? And that frequency is always rest! *** There are many “calm” apps and they’re probably all effective to some degree. What’s different about this app is the spiritual foundations. It’s the language of the Bible and abiding and union with The Lord.
The One Minute Pause had and is still having an impact on me personally. After several months of doing The Pause at least twice a day I started noticing character changes in me. Stress would arise and I would be much quicker to release it. I’d be more mindful, less reactive, able to connect with “the heart Jesus gave me.” **** Doing the pause was a delight and very uplifting! But the changes I saw in myself were more internal—it felt like the sheer joy of transformation! And I wasn’t even trying! I was just enjoying the music and language of The Pause.
The initial answer to prayer I received was being able to come back in the evening to the same restful state in which I started out my mornings. I would be reminded by the alert on my phone or iPad at 7:00 or 8:00 PM to do a pause and sometimes my husband would join in. This was new for me and a victory. That was a long-standing goal I had for myself, but I never was intentional about setting any times or disciplines to achieve this. Consequently, I had no results prior to The Pause.
Is there an area of your life that you would really like a victory? Have you tried and tried? How about substituting training and practicing for all that trying? Prayerfully, you just may discover as I did that the most important spiritual tool we have is releasing or surrendering! It does require consistency...Just a word of caution, don’t try this at home! TRAIN! It takes as little as a 1-3 minutes a day. Do you have a couple of minutes a day? I pray you’ll take the challenge. What have you got to lose? Some anxiety or fear? Some weight? Some irritability? Trauma? Or stuck-ness? The cumulative download you receive from practicing will be worth it! 2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Colossians 1:26-27 the mystery that has been hidden throughout all the ages.... Christ in you, the hope of Glory. (Paraphrased)
We have a lifetime guarantee!
Happy Pausing! Let me know if there’s an area in your life you’re thinking The Pause may help with. Please leave a comment below.
*Restoring the Soul podcast featuring John Michael Cusick LPC with Dr. Curt Thompson, M.D.
**Curt Thompson, M.D., The Anatomy of the Soul.
***Bob Hamp, “Think Differently Learn Differently” from Think Differently Academy (see website TDACAD.com)
**** “Living from the heart Jesus gave me” is a term Dallas Willard used in his writings and lectures
By: Morgan Collignon
2020 was the year I had been looking forward to because the events that were going to take place were the ones I had been waiting for my whole life. I was expected to graduate with my doctoral degree, begin my first full time job as an Audiologist, and marry the love of my life after almost two years of engagement with a lavish honeymoon in St. Lucia to follow. This was no doubt going to be my year! When March came around, all of my countdowns to start the rest of my life seemed to be in reach. Then, COVID19 struck the world. I was in such denial that this year could potentially be flipped upside down and my plans would have to change. As it started to get closer and things like my bridal shower and graduation were postponed, reality set it. I grieved for a few days, but then, with the support from my fiancée, I remembered that my plans might not be the plans God has for me.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.
With the level of uncertainty that surrounded our wedding, all we could do was put our faith in God to get us through. Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid I put my trust in You.” By putting my trust in God, something happened during the pandemic that I never could have predicted. The quarantine ended up being the biggest blessing for my life and my relationship. During that time, Austin and I continued our pre-marital counseling virtually with our pastor, we spent more time together focusing on ways to make our relationship better, and we grew exponentially in our faith. Austin and I joined a community group within our church and dove into lots of bible study! All things we’ve wanted to do but always put off until we “had more time.” We were still unsure of what the outcome of our wedding would be, but as we grew in our faith we came to realize that the sacrament of marriage is so much more than an extravagant wedding. It is about two souls joining together in a covenant with God.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own
understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
We decided to have a small wedding in the backyard with our closest family members. It turned out to be even more incredible than anything we could have ever planned. It was truly the best day of my life because God was at the center of it all. It still came with its fair share of challenges and hurdles, but it turned out to be exactly what God had planned for us all along!
What challenges and uncertainties are you facing that you can place at God’s feet, trusting that He will take care of it? I would love to hear about it.
By: Nancy Cangi, Treasurer at Her Life Speaks
It was October 19, 2014 and I sat in church, eyes closed and quietly praying feeling very alone and depressed. Around me I heard joy and laughter. It was then I knew why I did not like coming to this church. I was not happy and felt out of place surrounded by laughter. Then services began and the pastor said: “Is everybody happy?". Most of the congregation shouted out "YES!". He then said: "Good, because if you aren't then you are in the wrong place!". WOW. I was stunned. I ran out of church - and got in my car shaking & crying wondering... WHAT? JUST? HAPPENED? Everything I believed about God was turned upside down and inside out. I had never been so angry at God – EVER!
The next week was one of the worst weeks of my life. I knew if I did not find a new church to go to and FAST, then I would never return. I searched online and the following Sunday I visited my local church. The message was entitled – “Dealing with Life's Groanings!”. I had groaned more that last week than I can ever remember. All the grief, anger, fear, anxiety and frustration in my life wanted to come out. I suppose that was His plan. Just a
week earlier, I was an outcast because of my suffering and now I knew I had found my home. God had delivered me out of oppression and led me to His grace.
Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”
Fast forward 6 years, I am now well into my 50’s and never married. I feel like I have always been searching for my true love, my soul mate. I was looking for love in all the wrong places. There is a terrible loneliness that comes with living alone. A friend would always say to me, “you may be lonely, but you are never alone.”. I hated that expression; it was an oxymoron to me. I was searching for a man to love me, despite all my brokenness, for a man to want to be with me when I did not want to be with myself. I wanted a man to just love
me because I did not know how to love myself. I finally found that man, and His name is Jesus.
Song of Songs 2:16a (NIV) “My beloved is mine and I am his”
What I have learned is that all my life I was hearing Jesus say, “Follow Me and I’ll love you”, but now I hear “I love you, follow Me!” It is hard to believe that God knows everything I have done and still accepts me, but He does. He sent His Son to be crucified for MY sins, that is how much He loves me despite everything I have done, or not done. That is His magnificent gift of grace.
I now know what it means to be lonely but never alone. Jesus is always with me. He lives IN me. Thank you, Jesus, the emptiness in my heart is finally filled.
Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
During that awful week in October 2014 I questioned God, where was He? Why do you allow me to suffer so much? Now when I look back, He was there all along, He did not cause my suffering, but He did use it to draw me closer to Him.
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Psalm 107:1 (NIV) “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Have you ever questioned God’s plans for you? How do you fill the loneliness in your heart?
Have you ever questioned God’s plans for you? How do you fill the loneliness in your heart?
Please share how God has showed up for you.
By, Lauren Caron
REALife Youth Director, Beauty Project Team leader
If you’re anything like me, a working mom (mostly from home now) with two littles, 3 and under, you’re craving those date nights to get back into schedule somewhat consistently and some hubby one-on-one time! As things are slowly opening up more and more due to the COVID19 virus, you can now book a restaurant with a cute tent setup for outdoor dining… the only other thing you need, is a babysitter! I always like to keep a steady list of 3-5 girls that I use, so that there’s always someone available when I need them. It can definitely be hard to find someone you trust that checks all of your boxes!
What’s the best way to find a sitter in the first place?
Now that you have a sitter, are your kids excited for her (or him) to come or are they clingy and crying for you at the door begging you not to leave? Usually my kids will be happy to have someone come play with them, but occasionally, my youngest, won’t be too happy about it and I have to find something to distract her with in order to get out the door. So whatever that means for your child, it could be a snack or treat, or their favorite show or toy… just make sure not to linger too long or it just makes it worse for them. Usually my babysitter will tell me she stopped crying within a minute or two and then was happily playing. So don’t let it guilt you into worrying! And it will get easier each time, especially if they’re not used to having someone new watch them. You can also order a pizza or tell them they can have ice cream later (also works for bigger kids) and they think it’s a fun, special night for them as well!
I always like to be prepared and have all instructions written out on the kitchen counter about food, bottles, bedtime routines, and emergency numbers, as well as telling the sitters in person , so that it’s all clearly laid out for them. If you happen to have a teen who babysits, you can pass along that moms usually love a text with a picture of happy children half way through the night, or any updates, to put our minds at ease. In addition, we appreciate when we come home and find all the toys cleaned up and any dishes used, washed or in the dishwasher, so we don’t have to do it at the end of the night ☺. That usually comes with a tip for them! Lol, so go ahead and schedule that date night out, you’ll be so glad you did!
Is fear or anxiety holding you back from booking a babysitter and leaving the kiddies at home? Fear is one of the enemy’s most popular weapons that he uses against us. Scripture says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you in your decision making when finding a babysitter and when choosing the best time to leave the kids at home :)
Are there any other tips that have worked for you? Is there anything else preventing you from taking the plunge with leaving the kids home with a babysitter for the first time? I’d love to hear from you.
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.